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Literature Unit: Calico Captive

Here's a great theme for fall or the Thanksgiving holiday.

Book Synopsis: From a reviewer on amazon.com -- "this story is very loosely based on the true captivity narrative of Susannah Johnson. The focus of the book is on Mrs. Johnson's younger sister, Miriam Willard, who was just 14 at the time she and her older sister's family were captured by Abenaki Indians in 1754, but Ms. Speare increased her age to 16. This book has adventure and romance, and makes for a great fast-paced read. It also deals with how cultures and religions clashed on the 18th century frontier: New England farmers vs. Abenaki warriors, Puritanism vs. Roman Catholicism, and English vs. French. A wonderful historical novel for young readers, and interesting history."

About the Author: "Calico Captive" was Ms. Speare's (1909 - 1994) first novel. She wrote several others including "The Witch of Blackbird Pond," "The Bronze Bow," and "The Sign of the Beaver." In 1989, Ms. Speare was awarded the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award.

Suggested Activities and Questions:

1. Using a blank map, locate all the different places mentioned in the book.

2. Write an outline of the plot.

3. Compare the experience of being captured by Native Americans experienced by Mariam with the experience of characters in other books (e.g., True Son in "The Light in the Forest.")

4. Write short biographies of each of the main characters.

5. Why doesn't Miriam know how to swim.

6. What were the differences between Pierre's and Miriam's feelings about Native Americans. What do you think caused these differences?

7. What do you think happens to the characters of this novel after the end of the book?

Suggested Vocabulary:

banter
barbarian
boisterous
calico
coiffure
emboldened
fracas
genteel
haughty
idolatrous
lintel
menace
mortification
palisade
parole
plight
poach
porridge
squalor
stout
swagger
vermilion
wampum


Other books by Elizabeth George Speare include Sign of the Beaver, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and The Bronze Bow.

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